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Getting a Ph.D. In Nursing: Is it worth it?

Ph.D. In Nursing

In recent times, the world has seen an increase in worldwide demand for nurses and other nursing staff; to the extent that there’s never been this much need for nurses globally.

However, this fact has shown a dire constraint in the nursing field as (while the number of nurses and health care providers seems to be growing) there is a shortage of educators in the nursing field. A major way to counter this constraint would be for a lot more nurses to earn a Ph.D. in nursing.

Sadly though, earning a Ph.D. in nursing is seen as a needless accomplishment and frowned upon by a large percentage of nurses. They often stipulate that the prestigious accomplishment of getting a Ph.D. isn’t worth the time or stress.

As a result of this line of thought, there is a dire reduction in the percentage of nurses that holds a graduate degree in nursing, with far lesser holding a Ph.D. in nursing.

The reason for the above-mentioned line of thought stems from a large number of nurses believing that only securing an ADN or BSN is enough, and once you hold any of those, your school days are over. This is a misplaced belief, as there is a lot more to the nursing profession than just the undergraduate level.

Thankfully, few nurses do decide at certain points in their careers to further their education and earn a graduate degree before obtaining a Ph.D. Although these few nurses hardly amount to 10% of the nursing population, hence the nursing profession is short on educators. In attempting to convince the majority of nurses to further their studies, the first step would be finding out if getting a nursing Ph.D. is worth it.

The Importance of a Ph.D. in Nursing

The Importance of a Ph.D. in Nursing

As already established, the number of nurses who seem to know and understand the importance of getting a Ph.D. in nursing is rather few. Only these few deem it worthy enough to get an advanced degree early or later on in their career, and the same few are the ones who have accrued respected authority and can make a proper difference in the nursing field.

The reason for this is that a Ph.D. in nursing is a research-focused doctoral degree and doubles as one of the highest degrees you can obtain in the nursing profession. It prepares nurses to become experts in the nursing field, opening doors for a career in nursing research and education, as well as administrative roles.

Therefore, obtaining a Ph.D. in nursing places you farther than most nurses – increasing your value on any care team and giving you the ability to guide future nurses. With this in mind, one would expect an increase rather than the current decrease in nurses seeking an advanced degree.

Especially as the need for such nurses with a Ph.D. is always high to develop current practices, educate future nurses, lead nursing and care teams, and so much more.

Who Should Consider a Ph.D. in Nursing?

Who Should Consider a Ph.D. in Nursing?

If you are a nurse, there might have been times when you’ve heard a colleague say it’s not for them or when you’ve said something along the lines of not being a good fit for a Ph.D. program. That line of thinking is completely absurd as every nurse can and should be considering earning a Ph.D. in nursing. This is even more true as the field of nursing is now one of many in the health care sector that are moving towards the requirement of master’s and doctorate levels of education.

What You Can Do With a PhD

What You Can Do With a PhD

With a Ph.D. in nursing, there’s a lot you become qualified for as a Ph.D. nurse has been prepared to serve the nursing field and the public through creating and directing research on pertinent topics, ranging from educational to clinical, health policies, care systems and much more.

After obtaining a Ph.D., one’s career path doubles with newfound opportunities in different aspects of the health care sector. A Ph.D. nurse can chase research careers in academics, governing systems, and business, and can also enter educative and administrative roles. Highlighted below are detailed examples of what you can do with a Ph.D.

  • Working as a Nurse Educator: a major role Ph.D. nurses have to play is in the nursing education sector, as such you can become a lecturer or professor at a university or a nurse educator on the hospital floor. As stated above, while the nursing field is experiencing exponential growth, it is still suffering from a lack of trained educators. This is where Ph.D. nurses come in, especially since they’ve been prepared to take on an education-based role in the healthcare sector. Furthermore, having been trained with the latest research and best practices, they are in pole position to pass this on to future nurses.
  • Working as a Nurse Researcher: another important role a Ph.D. nurse can fill is working as a nurse researcher, where you keep the nursing field and health care sector up-to-date with the latest research available.

Balancing a Ph.D. Program as a Full-Time Nurse

Balancing a Ph.D. Program as a Full-Time Nurse

When it comes to earning a Ph.D. in nursing, most nurses would likely view this aspect as the most discouraging factor. In truth, they are not wrong, as figuring out the right way or system to use in balancing your work life as a nurse with a Ph.D. program is quite difficult.

Having to work an entire shift on the hospital floor, while finding time to flip through pages of a recommended text, is no small feat. However, there are successful ways to find the right balance, to commit to both your full-time job and completing your program.

You could choose to do an online nursing PhD with no GRE. The advice for balancing both includes early planning, good time management, sustaining open communication with faculty and staff of your chosen university, being organized, and most importantly staying the course.

Benefits of a Ph.D. in Nursing

Benefits of a Ph.D. in Nursing
  1. A better work-life balance: a grueling aspect of being a nurse is the 12-hour shifts, but with a Ph.D. in nursing, you no longer have to go through that. This is because Ph.D. nurses typically work in research and academics, which usually offer 9-5 jobs. Following this, the fact that you will no longer work weekends or holidays is also an added boost. Hence, taking such jobs will certainly provide a better work-life balance for you.
  2. A better income structure: it should be expected that those who have earned a Ph.D. in nursing will surely be paid better than regular nurses.
  3. Becoming an expert in your field: having completed one of the highest and most respected doctoral degrees in the nursing field, you will be accorded the due respect you deserve for completing an extensive educational career and acknowledged as an expert in your field.
  4. Access to amazing opportunities: earning a Ph.D. in nursing will broaden your career horizon and expose you to a host of amazing opportunities.
  5. Influencing current practices and policies in the healthcare sector: as a nurse, if you’ve ever wondered how the current nursing practices and policies were created and implemented, you’ve got the answer. A Ph.D. nurse is often placed in positions that allow them to influence health care policies and practices to improve them

Cons of a Ph.D. in Nursing

  1. The cost of tuition: A major constraint with earning a Ph.D. in nursing is the tuition fees you have to pay. With the prestige and acclaim given to Ph.D. programs, it follows that the cost of tuition wouldn’t be cheap. This often leads to taking loans to pay the tuition, which can lead to debts in the long run.
  2. The length of the program: A Ph.D. program in almost every field of study is quite lengthy, but this is more of a concern in the nursing field. A Ph.D. in nursing program on average can take between three and half years to six years to complete. This length of time is for a full-time Ph.D. program, which means that in the case of a part-time program, the number of years will drastically increase.
  3. Disrupting your work-life balance: while in process of obtaining your Ph.D., it will become quite difficult to maintain your usual work-life balance, especially if you’re juggling a full-time job as well. 

Is Getting a Ph.D. in Nursing Worth It?

The simple answer to the above-stated question would surely be yes. However, this depends on certain factors that should be taken into consideration, and these factors go beyond the details given above.

While it is clear that there are numerous benefits to earning a Ph.D. in nursing, such as making a difference in the landscape of the healthcare sector, it is also clear that committing to the program comes with a lot of difficulties.

With that in mind, the key factor that would make getting a nursing Ph.D. worth it would be you, your career goals, and your interests. If you’ve planned out your career path and you’ve deemed that a Ph.D. will be of great use, then pursuing it will certainly be worth it.

However, if the opposite is the case and you feel a Ph.D. would not help you, then they might be no worth in pursuing it. Regardless, what makes a difference here is the consideration of your career goals and interests, and carrying out what best suits them.  

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Harsha Sharma
Harsha is a senior content writer with numerous hobbies who takes great pride in spreading kindness. Earning a Postgraduate degree in Microbiology, she invests her time reading and informing people about various topics, particularly health and lifestyle. She believes in continuous learning, with life as her inspiration, and opines that experiences enrich our lives.

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